Vol. 12 No.15 – October 29, 2012

October 28, 2012


The 8020Info Water Cooler

Highlights from the latest information
for managers, leaders and entrepreneurs

1. John Cleese On Creativity

Monty Python star John Cleese is known for his comedy, but he also has another side featured in his lectures at Cornell University and elsewhere on creativity. In a You Tube video, Cleese outlines five factors needed for creativity: 

  • Space: You can’t be playful, and thus creative, if you’re overwhelmed by your usual pressures. You must seal yourself off in a quiet space.
  • Time:  You must create that space for a specific time, knowing when you will resume your usual activities. Play — and creativity — must be secluded from everyday life, he notes, quoting the research of Dutch historian Johan Huizinga. “We create an oasis of quiet for ourselves by setting boundaries of space and of time,” Cleese says.
  • Time: You must give your mind as long as possible to come up with an original idea and be comfortable with the discomfort of indecision over that  period of time, rather than taking the easy way out and grabbing a less original solution that presents itself early.
  • Confident: You can become paralyzed if you are fearful of making a mistake, and nothing creative will arise. You must be willing to say things that are silly or wrong.
  • A 22-inch waist: Actually, that’s a joke by Cleese, but an appropriate one, since his actual fifth point is humour, which gets us into the playful-creative mode quicker than anything else. Creativity in your organization may revolve around serious issues, but don’t confuse serious with solemn.

2. The Dangers Of Collaboration

Collaboration is widely hailed as a vital organizational necessity, but the reality is that it’s scarce in many workplaces. On Harvard Business Review blogs, consultant Nilofer Merchant says the reason is that collaboration is viewed as dangerous: “Inherently, collaboration says something is happening outside of one’s immediate control.” Other reasons it’s considered dangerous, she says, include:

  • Not knowing the answer: The premise in collaboration is that you will solve problems beyond the expertise or domain of any one individual. But that means the individuals involved must be comfortable with some ambiguity, even though they have built their careers, if not their own identity, on being experts, and don’t like feeling ignorant.
  • Unclear or uncomfortable roles: Roles and responsibilities are often fluid when we’re collaborating, which can be challenging for senior executives used to making decisions within a hierarchy.
  • Too much talking, not enough doing: Collaboration can be messy, and slower than some people prefer.
  • Information (over)sharing: Collaboration means sharing information between organizational silos, which can mean information overload for some involved. Perhaps more critically, those who get their power from hoarding information might be threatened.
  • Fear of fighting: Collaboration will force people to address conflicting priorities. “If you avoid conflict, or don’t know how to fight effectively, nothing will happen. Knowing how to debate the tradeoffs between many viable options means knowing how to argue with each other about the business in more open and visible ways,” she writes. But, she stresses, that can be very risky.

3. Let Employees Know You Care

Your employee’s knowledge may be worth more to your organization than your paycheque is to them. So make sure they know you appreciate them, advises executive coach Marshall Goldsmith on his blog.

He suggests you rank order each of your direct reports in terms of contribution to your clients and organization. Then ask yourself how many of them could leave and get another job, with a pay raise, in three months.

“Make sure you express your sincere appreciation for the contribution these great people are making to your company,” he suggests. “Make peace with the fact that you need them more than they need you.”

If you can’t offer a pay raise, figure out what you can do instead, such as recognition, educational opportunities, and the chance to work with a wider range of people inside and outside your unit. “Listen to their ideas, and do whatever you can to keep them coming to work with you,” he warns.

4. Pick Your Never — And Deliver

I will never miss a deadline.

I will never fail to warn you about a possible pitfall.

I will never charge you more than the competition.

I will never violate a confidence.

I will never be late for a meeting.

I will never let you down.

Entrepreneur Seth Godin says there are all sorts of “nevers” you can deliver to clients. But you can’t deliver all of them. “Picking your never and sticking with it is a fabulous way to position yourself,” he advises.

5. Zingers

  • Look Past First Fears: At the amusement park with his children, consultant Mike Figliuolo was quite fearful on his first trip up the 350-foot Drop Tower, with his focus on his seat belt and the sturdiness of the shoulder harness, but on the second trip he noticed the great view of the park and other individuals beyond himself. The lesson, he says, is that the first time we perform a task we tend to focus excessively on the details and most critical elements of the task, but once we get past our fear we can appreciate everything going on around us. (Source: Thoughtleaders Blog)
  • Sharpen Your Focusing Skills:  Young entrepreneur Shama Kabani says 90 per cent of the time what is on your computer screen is not resulting in a positive return. Learn the skill of focusing on what truly matters for your organization, and then do it consistently. (Source: Forbes blogs)
  • Use Blog Insights to Hire: If a job seeker has a blog, HR consultant Heather Huhman suggests looking it over to assess their grammar and spelling, whether they show a genuine interest in your industry or field, whether they have an audience, and whether their writing suggests they would fit the organizational culture. (Source: Blogging4Jobs.com)
  • Open With Action:  Speech consultant Nick Morgan notes the classic movie Casablanca began with seven minutes of credits, while today’s films begin with lots of action before the credits. Limited patience and short attention spans are your competition; an audience is expecting you to deliver, so don’t begin a presentation with seven minutes (or even three minutes) of what amounts to throat clearing and credits. Deliver the action from the start. (Source: PublicWords blog)
  • Look For Silver Linings:  Here’s a tip from Thomas Nelson Publishing Chairman Michael Hyatt — when something bad happens to you, the best question to ask is:  What does this experience make possible? (Source: MichaelHyatt.com)

6. Q&A with 8020Info: 
     Communicate with Trust and Conversation

Question:  How can I communicate better with my staff?

8020Info Associate Harvey Schachter responds:

It starts with three elements: trust, time and thought.

If your staff doesn’t trust you, then the messages you send out won’t be received. So be honest with yourself: How high (or low) is the level of trust your staff has in you? If it’s weak, figure out how to mend that trust, which in itself will be related to communication, since often trust is breached by moments of being curt, cutting, deceptive or similarly off-putting.

You also must give sufficient time to your communication. That doesn’t mean carving out 30 hours a week for this task. But it means not rushing your many every-day conversations with staff, which are your main communication channels. Take more time for small talk, asking about their personal interests or families; sincere focus on them can lead to further interest and trust in you.

Take time to explain matters in greater detail, rather than using the staccato style of communication that grows ever more common these days. Terse is not necessarily ideal. Remember that subordinates usually lack the depth of information you have for why something is being done, yet it is the “why” that motivates.

Put more thought into your conversations. View those conversations as the critical parts of your day, not filler or wasted time diverted from more important matters.

Think about what each conversation is designed to accomplish. Is it to build bonds? Is it to start a new initiative? Is it to create a structure for that new initiative? Is it for accountability? Is it to share knowledge? Is it to resolve a conflict? Is it for appreciation? Know the purpose, from your end, and consider how best to achieve your desired goal.

At the same time, remember that communication is best when it’s two-way. Ask open-ended questions to get the other person talking. Listen to what they say — really listen. Keep in mind that you can learn from them, as well as them from you. Perhaps part of communicating better with staff is listening to them, not just propounding your own views.

7. News From Our Water Cooler:
     Employee Engagement Webinar

We’re sorry if you had to miss our recent briefing on Strategic Employee Engagement and Communications. But good news: in response to the positive feedback and many related enquiries, Senior AssociateKaren Humphreys Blakewill be reprising her presentation with a webinar next month — ideal for those who couldn’t attend the September event in Kingston due to timing or distance.

        Reserve Your GoToWebinar® Date:

  • Wednesday, November 28, 2012 – Noon-1:30pm Eastern Time

Given its emphasis on innovation and productivity gains, this session will be of interest to business owners, CEOs, EDs of larger non-profits, public sector institutions, and HR and communication leaders. If you’d like to pre-register for Karen’s briefing on her research findings, just send us an email to reserve your place: strategy@8020info.com.


8020Info Inc. is expanding its practice in the area of strategic employee engagement and communications.  If we can help your organization become more effective, productive and innovative, we would be pleased to discuss your needs. Enquiries are welcome at (613) 542-8020, or by email at watercooler@8020info.com 

8. Closing Thought

“The least questioned assumptions are often the most questionable.”
— Paul Broca